National Association of Counties * Washington, D.C. Vol. 31, No. 11 * June 7, 1999
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One of the problems of being a human resources professional is that even going to the movies or reading the newspaper is influenced by the experiences of what goes on in the workplace.
When the HR director reads the sports section, he or she hardly sees any sports. Instead, the sports section is full of reports about what coach gets hired or fired, what athlete fails a drug test or commits assault or sexual battery, what school or team is on probation, who is not showing for work or a training camp, etc. So, the sports section is full of HR news. If that is true of the sports section, imagine what can be found in the business section or the local section.
The same is true of movies. Godzilla, for example, was a brutish beast who destroyed property and lives to survive, feed and reproduce. The monsters behavior was not influenced by rules or standards, and the human beings left in his wake were injured and traumatized.
The movie Godzilla displayed many of the characteristics of a toxic workplace environment. In this environment, a manager an elected or appointed manager displays behaviors that cause serious problems at work. The manager may not even realize what she or he is doing or the impact of actions on others. The toxic manager is arrogant, criticizes or belittles staff members in public, rarely says "thank you" or recognizes achievement and is a very poor role model for others.
These toxic behaviors lead directly to illegal behaviors such as unlawful race or gender discrimination and sexual harassment. They also provoke responses that can hurt the organization in many ways, not the least of which can be an increased likelihood of workplace violence.
There are other costs that can be directly measured, such as increased absenteeism, an increase in grievances or discrimination complaints and higher turnover. Just as Godzilla in the movie bashed people, so too does Godzilla the manager engage in demeaning and insulting behavior that can affect the morale of the staff and their productivity.
An agency has an obligation to take steps to root out and eliminate toxic behavior in the workplace. The Godzilla style of management gets in the way of public service and has no place in a public agency.
The damage done is as destructive within the context of the workplace as the movie monsters damage is to the city. Top management must intervene quickly and decisively to stop, interrupt and correct the behavior of the Godzilla manager. If allowed to spread, the toxic management atmosphere will grow and things will degenerate faster.
The good news is that the style of management can be identified and stopped. Taking good faith employee complaints seriously and investigating the complaints promptly and effectively is one important tool. So, too, is a strong employee assistance program that can serve as an environmental scanning tool to identify problem areas that need corrective actions.
Strong agency policies and effective ongoing training for all employees is another important tool, as is holding managers accountable for proper workplace behavior.
Perhaps the most important anti-Godzilla tactic is one of the simplest be a positive role model as a top manager.
It is particularly sad when the Godzilla manager is the head of the organization or even an elected official. The damage such a person can do is far greater than even firstline supervisors displaying toxic behavior.
Sometimes, all it takes is for a manager to be counseled by a peer, or an HR professional, who, in effect, holds a mirror up to the manager to look at her or his own conduct the way others see it. EAP can be a great resource to help with this mirror technique. Unfortunately, sometimes that wont work and corrective action is necessary. These and other techniques can change the behavior of the manager or cause the manager to leave the organization. Whatever is done, Godzilla must not be allowed to multiply.
Dont hesitate to contact the HR Doctor if you have a question or need
help in the capture of Godzilla the manager. Best wishes.
You can contact the HR Doctor at the e-mail address below or by fax at
(If you have questions for the "HR Doctor," e-mail him
Rosenberg is the Human Resources director for Broward County,